Before You Call A Fat Person at the Gym “Brave”

Bullshit FairyThere is a concept in Fat Activism called the “Good Fatty Bad Fatty Dichotomy.” coined by Kate Harding. Basically, it’s the idea that fat people should be treated differently based on health status or performance of “health” (foods eaten, exercise undertaken etc.)

There is a more complete discussion here. The end result of this is to create hoops that fat people have to jump through in order to be treated with basic human respect by the person who is creating the hoops and judging how well fat people are jumping through them.  It’s bullshit, of course, but it’s ingrained in our culture and it comes out often in memes that are well meaning, but messed up.  Here are some that I’ve corrected:


And while we’re on the subject –  fat people’s bodies are not “problems” to be “fixed.” Extra shame on the person who created this for besmirching the good named of Captain Picard.

Original pictures is a fat person on a machine at the gym, photographed from behind with the caption "Making fun of a fat person at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair." This image and caption are crossed out, the image is copied on the right with the new caption "Making fun of a fat person or a homeless person is a shitty thing to do no matter where they are. Don't be an asshole."

Another version of this compares fat people in the gym to sick people at the hospital, which is ridiculous since it pathologizes fat bodies and suggests that they have some special need to go to the gym to “fix” themselves that thinner people don’t. Super extra shame on the person who created this for using homeless people as a tool in their bullshit good fatty argument.


This person took the popular meme “confession bear” and turned him into “stereotyping, patronizing bear.” As Fat Activists and Health at Every Size practitioners who have been asked intrusive and clueless questions by perfect strangers at the gym (like “how much weight have you lost?”) can attest, this is crap. Don’t make assumptions about people based on their size – not at the gym, not anywhere else.


Ugh.  People who are running are not morally better than people who are sitting on the couch. People who run faster are not morally better than people who run more slowly. We do not have to be “better” than someone else in order to be happy with ourselves.  I blogged more about this one here.

Or maybe you’ve seen the letter written to a fat person who was, one might assume, just trying to run around a track and not trying to be a muse for someone who wants a medal for not being as shitty and fatphobic as they possibly could.

As always, think before you meme and when you see memes that put some people down as a way to prop other people up you can remind the people who post it that it’s not necessary and, in fact, it’s extremely harmful. No more good fatty bad fatty BS please.

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21 thoughts on “Before You Call A Fat Person at the Gym “Brave”

  1. Very. Think about it people. When you call someone “brave” for doing something, saying something, wearing something, you are implying they shouldn’t, you wouldn’t or it is a one off. Even if it is meant in a “nice way”, it is still an: Oh My Gosh!? You? Here? I’m amazed! Stop being amazed, get a grip. What I eat, say, wear, do or show up to is none of your business. And if you’ve made a business out of it, shaming me for being, doing, wearing, feeling, thinking anything, YOU need help!

    1. I was called “brave” for going on vacation by myself. What up with that?

      It sucked some of the joy out of my trip, until I told myself they were just being ridiculous, and quite possibly jealous. Sure, it’s a lot of fun to go with other people (assuming you get along well with them), but when you go alone, you don’t have to wrangle a crowd, or get a consensus of what to do, or skip something you want because someone in the group can’t do it. I got to do EXACTLY what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, and. no time wasted arguing, debating, begging, etc. to get what I wanted.

      If you’re going to call someone “brave,” it better be because they did something that takes actual courage, like fighting a mountain lion, or public speaking.

  2. Yeah, those “compliments” some people think are a good idea to make would make me so self-conscious I might never go back to the gym. I am the introverted, quiet type of exerciser, and being approached with any mention of weight or bravery would pretty much kill my desire to be there. And you know, if you tell the person that, no matter how gently, they suddenly turn on you because they were ‘trying to be be nice’ and you should be happy about that, even if you aren’t.

  3. I know that you like Pugs so I hope you enjoy this picture. If different species can get along so well with each other, I would hope that we humans, all the same species would do better than we do.

  4. Turns out that people who are just living their lives don’t want to be called ‘brave’ or ‘inspirational’. Here’s a video from a wheelchair user’s perspective about being ‘inspirational’. NSFW due to some swearing and sex talk.

    1. Thank you for showing us this! I have found a new show to watch! I loved the frustrated part at the end.

      I’m disabled (invisible disability), and I need special accommodations sometimes. But there is a big difference between accommodations and special treatment. I don’t want special treatment. I *need* accommodations (when I need them), but I neither need nor want to be treated as an Other, to be pandered to or patronized. People who don’t need accommodation rarely understand the difference, but it is so very real.

      Like fat people who need larger seats on an airline, the only thing “brave” or “inspiring” about flying fatties is the fact that they faced down and/or endured the bigotry and abuse in the process of going where they need to go. If they just had proper accommodations (seats that fit and fellow fliers not hating on them simply for existing in a fat body in public), there would be no courage or inspiration involved. It would just be people on a plane.

  5. Good god yes. I’ll never forget the time I was jogging and some woman decided to give me what I assume she thought was an encouraging smile and say, “Good” as I zipped past. Um, okay. I’m not jogging for your fucking approval. I actually enjoy doing it and am hoping to get back to the point where I can again. Granted back then I WAS trying to exercise to lose weight, but it still bothered me.

    1. Beh. People and boundary issues compounded by thinking they are “helping”. SHUT UP!

      I went back to group yesterday and think I got a taste of what I’ve been missing in non-El Nino winters.

      A woman I have never seen before (white, 50 ish, maybe a tad heavy) came in, took a look at me and opened her (endless) conversation with. “And like every one else is I am going to MUV fitness and gonna try Weight Watchers again and lose forty-five pounds.” Oh God. So it begins. The 35 minutes SOLID of diet, exercise, fitness, weight, health talk began. Two young, thin, white trainee therapists, one male/one female and this woman filled the room with a circular din of: ‘Oh by the way, we don’t want to look like you or be un-healthy like you,…’ miasma that made me grateful for the ill timed attack of diarrhea that saw me leave five minutes into group! For real. I have never left before and felt bad, but also relieved to be spared ANYMORE of the bullshit talk. OMG. One of the therapists followed me out to jump on my ass for leaving till she saw I was heading into the women’s room with an urgent look on my face. “Let me know if you’re not coming back.” I left a note.

      By the time I got home a good day of getting out, walking, seeing the sun had me nearly suicidal.

      I’ve said it before. This is not a safe place for me. This: “Safe welcoming sharing everyone come and be who you are place.” It is NOT safe for me. And I am TIRED OF TRYING TO EXPLAIN IT!

      Weight is NOT a protected status any where by Michigan I believe (state). In real life, fat/weight is positively targeted. Urgently, casually, kindly, insistently, openly, covertly, angrily, ENDLESSLY!

      I think my health insurance will cover a free gym member ship. I so want to go swimming. How long till I can JUST GO SWIMMING AND BE LEFT THE HELL ALONE?! JULY?!

        1. I’m getting quite pissy about it. I wonder if I could eat an ice cream cone during the pre group lunch time. Be hilarious!

          1. Good luck! I have no idea what your group rules are, but I can see it ruffling some feathers that need and deserve serious ruffling. Shame on them.

            I remember back when I was doing Weight Watchers, with the points, and when I discovered a donut was 4 points, I had a day where I basically ate nothing but donuts and tomatoes, because POINTS! Yeah, that’s “healthy.” And yet, people who knew I was doing WW would shake their heads at the donuts, until I explained that I was eating donuts and tomatoes, and sticking to my point limit, and then they smiled. “Well, as long as you’re still losing weight.” Ummmm…

            Stop telling me you care, and “supporting” me in my “weight loss journey,” or “health journey,” or whatever the heck you want to call it. Especially now that I’ve stopped doing it. If I’m eating a salad it’s because I actually like vegetables!

            I hope things get better after they read your note. Or did your note just say you had gastro-intestinal issues, and not that you were being horribly hurt by their bigotry and hate? I hope you can teach them, or find another group where you actually CAN be safe.

          2. I like the idea off getting in fat-shamers’ faces by eating an ice cream cone and being .hilarious. In fact, I recently saw a description of Tumblr as a “rowdily defiant and stridently progressive” creative community. That sounded great, so I joined Tumblr and made being “rowdily defiant” my New Year’s Resolution for 2019. In fact, I am currently using the name “rowdily defiant” as my Tumblr ID. If you’re on Tumbr, please look for me there!

  6. “People who run faster are not morally better than people who run more slowly. ”

    Remember when you ran that marathon, and so many internet trolls said it didn’t count, because you ran slowly? Like, yeah, you completed it, and got your completionist medal, but you took too long, so you’re still a “lazy” bad fatty, and nothing you do counts, unless you get thin in the process. Or beforehand. Or something. And all the nasty things the same people said about you, and your morality, because you took longer than they thought you should?

    Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

    1. I’ve noticed that a lot of people believe that because they are thin, that makes them morally superior to everyone else. In other words, they think having a small butt makes them holy. Perhaps you can see where I am going with this. They think the small size of their a** makes them holy. I call such a person an “a**-holy.” (Plural: a**-holies.)

      People in our society really seem to have made a religion out of being thin, complete with holy rituals, such as dieting and exercising, that are supposed to bring the “blessing of thinness.” (Except these rituals don’t work.) Plus, some of these people seem to think following this religion will give them immortal life. They believe only bad, evil, fat people ever get old and sick and pass away — burdening taxpayers in the process. They are convinced that they themselves will never get ill and have any medical expenses that get passed on to taxpayers. (I’m not sure who they think will pay for the Social Security checks that they plan to receive forever.)

      I am writing a book entitled, Your Fat is Not Your Fault,” and I plan a chapter devoted to this nutty religion. I call this religion, “The Church of Kale.”

      1. Why yes, there are a lot of markers of a religion (as a cynical atheist understands it):
        A concept of heaven (the whole fantasy of being thin) a concept of hell (the whole bigoted imagination of being fat), a concept of sin, a concept of penance, regular worship, preachers, gurus and definitely not least a ready frame with which one can sort one neighbours in good and bad.

  7. Fat: a state of perpetual mind-bogging by how obtuse people can be. My God, it is JUST FAT! I know it hasn’t been since the 1960’s but it IS JUST FAT!

  8. Saw it in action, but didn’t manage to kill my grandmother. EMT tech kept asking if it was high blood sugar, when she was lolled out semi-conscious on the couch. Even after the test showing it was LOW BLOOD SUGAR. Just can’t SEE past the fat. Wonder how many people have been killed by cultural bias based misdiagnoses in the last hundred years…? Go to med school, have common sense and observation skills ironed right out of you, replace with arrogance and smug assumption. Note: also works for class, age, sex, and cultural biases.

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